Almost five years after cannabis was legalized in Canada, Mission has experienced highs and lows.
Mission Mayor Paul Horn wrote to Canadian health minister Jean-Yves Duclos on July 6 describing the impact legalization has had on the community. The letter was a part of Monday’s (July 17) council agenda.
Horn says applying an equitable approach to land use, business licensing and infrastructure decisions has become all but impossible because the Cannabis Act has allowed marijuana operations to behave in a way that stands alone.
The city was informed by local RCMP that a process for review of the Cannabis Act was mandated to occur this summer. At council on Monday, the mayor said the review was largely focused on how Indigenous groups have an opportunity to participate in the cannabis market — not how it’s regulated.
In the letter, Horn asked that the ministry seek further feedback from municipalities.
“You can imagine our frustration when we found that the window for community feedback had already closed. It is profoundly disappointing that the process was not more widely publicized, and that Canadian municipalities did not receive direct notice of an opportunity to share what we have learned in the last five years,” he wrote.
Council heard from local residents on an array of concerns about the legal and illegal cannabis industry in Mission at a recent RCMP community forum.
In his letter, Horn outlined the challenges Mission has faced with cannabis cultivation since legalization in October 2018. He said grow operations in rural, urban and suburban neighbourhoods have each yielded unique concerns.
Horn says grow operations are happening on a large scale in outlying areas of the city with odour, noise and traffic impacting neighours.
“Typically, the facilities are highly secure, which makes them stand out in areas where neighbours are used to connecting and relying on one another. These operations function more like industrial plants than farms, with the effect of socially sterilizing the areas in which they are situated,” Horn wrote.
“No other industry would be able to operate in this way in these parts of our community, especially given our inability to provide oversight in typical areas such as waste effluent, garbage, intrusion into environmentally sensitive areas, and impact on neighbouring drinking water wells.”
Meanwhile, the operations in urban and suburban neighbourhoods provide different challenges. Horn says he has firsthand experience with a grow-op as a neighbour, resulting in increased outages and transformer failures for the neighbourhood.
“Not only is a valuable source of housing lost, but these grow operations create extraordinary pressure on our electrical infrastructure,” he wrote. “Power outages and surges are common, causing damage to neighbours’ appliances and requiring a need for upgraded transformers.”
Horn says the main concerns about cannabis operations from residents include an inequitable approach to zoning, construction without proper permits and inspections, designated growers who skirt business licence requirements, loss of industrial space and job density, and an absence of enforcement.
However, since legalization, the mayor says cannabis stores have provided a bit of a boost to local economic activity.
“I haven’t had any concerns or really much discussion about the cannabis outlets themselves,” Horn said. “It’s the growing operations that we have heard concerns about.”
The mayor says a middle ground should be achieved going forward that is more respectful of the community fabric.